Aermacchi announced yesterday it has teamed with Turkish and Australian companies to improve its bids for two forthcoming contests on which it has strong hopes for its new M311 primary jet trainer.

The company's chief executive, Carmelo Cosentino, revealed it had signed an agreement with TAI of Turkey, whose air force has a longstanding requirement for 40 aircraft to replace its ageing Cessna T-37 trainers.

The two companies will spend the next few months discussing the nature of TAI's participation, not only in any Turkish order but for the entire programme. Cosentino says that TAI's strengths include good capabilities in conventional structures and the ability to offer a lower cost structure than Aermacchi.

Aermacchi has also signed with the defence services division of Qantas to provide support for the M311 if it wins Singapore's contract for a 20-aircraft purchase. The Singaporean air force already uses the M311's predecessor, the S211, of which it purchased 30 in the 1980s. Due to lack of airspace, Singapore bases its S211s in Australia, and is likely to do the same with its replacement.

Cosentino says he understands Singapore has been pleased with the performance of the S211 but that support for the aircraft in service has not always been as good as it should have been.

"Don't forget that when the aircraft was sold to Singapore the company was Siai Marchetti. It was a good company but a very small one. Its aircraft were good but it was a little weak on support and overall strategy."

Largest potential prize for the M311 is the opportunity to replace the UK Royal Air Force's fleet of Shorts Tucanos. Three consortia are looking at the requirement and mulling several possible aircraft, including the M311.

Cosentino believes that the latest generation of trainer jets can swing the pendulum back in favour of turbofans after the 'turboprop mania' of 10-15 years ago.

"I'm posing a challenge to myself and my team, to sell this aircraft with a price of $6-6.5 million." That, he says, is similar to "a good turboprop" but with better performance than the latter type of aircraft. Aermacchi is working to keep in-service costs competitive.


Source: Flight Daily News